Instagram is giving politicians the same free reign to spread misinformation as its parent company Facebook. Instagram is expanding its limited fact checking test in the US from May and will now work with 45 third-party organizations to assess the truthfulness of photo and video content on its app. Material rated as false will be hidden from the Explore and hashtag pages, and labled with an interstitial warning blocking the content elsewhere until users tap again to see the post.
This goes an important step further than Facebook’s early attempts to append warnings on links alongside content but that still let users immediately consume the misinformation. In October Facebook announced it would use a similar interstitial warning system.
Instagram will use image matching technology to find additional copies of false content and apply the same label, and do this across Facebook and Instagram content. That could become a talking point for Facebook as it tries to dissuade regulators from breaking up the company and spinning off Instagram.
One group that’s exempt from the fact checking, though, is politicians. They’re original content on Instagram, including ads, will not be sent for fact checks, even if it’s blatantly inaccurate. This aligns with Facebook’s policy that’s received plenty of backlash from critics including TechCrunch who say it could let candidates smear their rivals, stoke polarization, and raise money through lies. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has maintained that banning political ads could hurt challenger candidates in need of promotion, and that it would be tough to draw the lines between political and issue ads.